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Danish Soprano Inga Nielsen Dies At 61

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Inga Nielsen, a Danish soprano who performed in some of the world's leading opera houses, has died, the country's royal opera said Monday. She was 61.

Nielsen died at a hospital in northern Copenhagen on Sunday, said Michael Schoenwandt, music director of the Royal Opera. He declined to give the cause
of death, saying it was a private matter. Nielsen had been suffering from cancer in recent years.

One of Denmark's best known sopranos, Nielsen performed at major stages such as La Scala in Milan, the Vienna State Opera and London's Covent Garden. She also sang at festivals across Europe, including Bayreuth and Salzburg in Austria, Aix-en-Provence in France, and Edinburgh, Scotland, and at the Mostly Mozart festival in New York.

In 1990, Nielsen performed the role of Aspasia in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Mitridate at the Munich opera festival. She also performed in Beethoven's Ninth conducted by Sir Georg Solti at the Salzburg festival the same year.

She was unique. She was born with a great voice and at the same time, she had a great feeling for musicality,Schoenwandt told The Associated Press. The opera world has lost a big voice.

The daughter of a Danish father and an Austrian mother, Nielsen was considered a musical prodigy as a child. She made her first recordings — Danish folk songs and Christmas carols — at the age of nine.

After being educated in Austria, she began her professional career in 1971 as a soubrette at Gelsenkirchen, in Germany's industrial Ruhr region. In 1975, she became an ensemble member of the Frankfurt Opera.

Some of her most memorable performances came when she sang Constance in Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio in Salzburg as well as when she played Salome in Richard Strauss' work, Schoenwandt said.

Although she was respected internationally and worked with famed conductors such as Herbert von Karajan and Giuseppe Sinopoli, the reclusive Nielsen never became a big star in her home country.

Her first major appearance in Denmark was in 1993 when she sang with Spanish tenor Placido Domingo at two outdoor concerts in Copenhagen. She also sang at the opening ceremony for the Storebaelt bridge in 1998, wearing her trademark red gown.

In 2006, she made her last major public appearance at Copenhagen's Tivoli gardens to celebrate her 35 years as a professional singer.

Nielsen was married briefly to American baritone Robert Hale. She did not have any children.

Funeral arrangements were not announced.